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Finally, ‘The Bachelorette’ Returns to the Pursuit of Love

It was never a suitable forum for showing men fighting with each other or addressing racial tension, and luckily it is no longer trying to do either

(ABC)
(ABC)

Mark down June 27 as the day The Bachelorette remembered it’s a show about a woman dating a bunch of guys. For a while, the show wasn’t so much about Rachel and romance as it was the squabbles of several dudes — mainly dick-measuring competitions, with a side of racial tension. Multiple episodes centered around the drama between Lee and Kenny. It was a loud and angry dispute tinged by Lee’s racist behavior that only tangentially involved Rachel. Lee’s goal, supposedly, was to sabotage and get in the heads of Kenny and other contestants in an effort to win over Rachel, and Kenny wanted to dispute and defend himself against the apparent falsehoods Lee told Rachel. Their feud became the season’s focal point, with back-to-back episodes ending with the two screaming at each other, Rachel-less, before TO BE CONTINUED dramatically flashed onscreen.

On Tuesday night’s episode, Kenny “wins” the dispute. Rachel took them on a two-on-one date, during which she determines that Lee was lying to her. Lee then seemingly lies to Kenny about whether he lied to Rachel. Apparently he is unaware that this show is filmed on cameras that capture video evidence of him saying things.

And then, without the need to beat out Lee, whom Rachel sent home, Kenny comes to the realization that he wasn’t into the whole “being on The Bachelorette situation.” He and Rachel talk and pretty quickly come to a shared understanding that while they respect each other as people, their relationship isn’t strong and he’d be better off heading back to America to be with his daughter. Rachel characterizes Kenny’s departure as “very mutual,” which is often said at the end of relationship, but rarely true.

Rachel focuses more on figuring out the whole romance thing once the drama is squashed. She quickly eliminates a ton of dudes upon realizing their relationships just aren’t quite what she’s looking for. In one night, the remaining cast goes from 12 to six.

And so instead of closing with a bevy of screams and a TO BE CONTINUED, this episode ends with a teaser focused on Rachel’s “journey for love.”

Normally, I’m disappointed by this transition. The Bachelor and Bachelorette always start out with confrontation and fun dates, only to morph into shows centered around a drippy, saccharine depiction of romance. But this season I’m grateful for it. The Lee-Kenny dispute was not fun television. It made me cringe when it was supposed to be captivating. I will be much happier watching some uneventful dates rather than a clumsy attempt to address racism on a reality TV show.

MVP: Kenny’s Daughter

We get multiple extended sequences of Kenny FaceTiming his daughter back in America. Kenny’s daughter is perfect: She’s relentlessly optimistic and keeps encouraging Kenny to be happy as he pursues a woman on another continent.

Biggest BS: Kenny’s Eye Incident

About those TO BE CONTINUED episode finishes: On several occasions throughout the season thus far, teasers for future episodes featured an image of Kenny bleeding from his right eye, often spliced with images of Kenny and Lee yelling at each other, with the heavy implication that their dispute turned violent.

On Tuesday night’s episode, we see Kenny get his eye cut. It happens during a group date, where everybody dresses up like Vikings (because they’re in Denmark) and plays with wooden swords and shields. Adam also gets a bad cut, but the show never used that in any promo material.

It’s a disingenuous, though hardly new way to advertise an upcoming plot point. But this time ABC did it to help sell the already-ugly Kenny and Lee dispute. I’m OK with ABC lying to me; I’m less OK with ABC fictionalizing an act of racially motivated violence under the premise that it’s what I’m excited to watch.

Most Bleeps: Kenny

We never see Kenny being physically violent toward Lee, and he rarely raised his voice at even him after realizing Lee was characterizing him as “aggressive.” However, Kenny definitely said a lot of things to him that you typically wouldn’t say to somebody unless you wanted to fight. This belongs in the Smithsonian:

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what Kenny plans on dragging across Lee’s grave. I’d assume he said “balls,” but they don’t bleep “balls,” right? They don’t show Kenny’s mouth, so this mystery will go unsolved. You can tell he’s mad when he tells someone to “eat shit and die.” On Twitter, he insulted a wrestling personality by telling him to “eat a cheeseburger flavored dick.” Shit is much less flavorful than cheeseburger-flavored dicks. Honestly, I’d be willing to wager shit tastes significantly worse than standard dicks.

Most Entertaining Elimination: Josiah

Josiah is smart and funny and charming and handsome and ripped. If you don’t believe me, he’ll tell you!

Does he know how self-centered one has to be to not just talk in the third person, but to use your full name? Anyway, Josiah says there would be “something wrong with [Rachel’s] brain” if she eliminated him. So I guess there’s something wrong with her brain!

Saddest Elimination: Will

Will was doing so good! He was great at handball! But somewhere along the way, Rachel decided Will wasn’t being passionate enough with her. He admits he spent too long trying to be a great friend to Rachel and perhaps didn’t focus enough on the romantic aspects of their relationship. I was legitimately hollering at my television as the date went sour. It was upsetting to see a good dude blow it so earnestly.

Greatest Success Story: Matt

Rachel has eliminated a slew of charismatic, handsome, successful contestants. She has not eliminated Matt, who is balding and unmemorable and works in construction. I’m rooting for him, even if I can’t remember anything about him that would inspire me to root for him.